Boston High School: Ross McDonald

New England Roundup: Connecticut

August, 18, 2010
8/18/10
6:14
AM ET
Kevin Callahan is entering his 11th year as head football coach at Ridgefield High School this fall. Since 2001, his Tigers have never endured a losing season. They’ve won nine games four times, and six or more every year but one.

ConnecticutAnd yet, they’ve been to the CIAC playoffs twice, playing for -- and winning -- their only state championship in 2002.

Callahan thought something was wrong with that.

“It’s nice when kids understand how to win,” he said, “but you have to reward winning.”

Others thought so, too.

In a change met with sweeping applause from the Connecticut high school football community, the CIAC is implementing a new playoff system this fall that features fewer divisions, more teams and a venue that many feel finally fits the bill.

In recent years, the football playoffs featured four teams earning postseason berths in six divisions. This season, there are only four divisions (LL, L, M, S) but with eight teams qualifying in each, the number of playoff competitors jumps from 24 to 32. The hope is to reward the larger schools who play in more difficult divisions. Last season, three 9-1 teams (two in Class LL, one in L) didn’t make the playoffs, and the seasons of four 8-2 teams ended on or around Thanksgiving. In 2008, 14 teams with eight or more wins didn’t qualify.

“All other CIAC sports, you win 40 percent of your games, you’re in the playoffs,” said Berlin coach John Capodice, a member of the CIAC football committee. “I felt the football kids were shortchanged.”

[+] EnlargeCasey Cochran
Courtesy of Dave ChoateMasuk-Monroe (Conn.) quarterback Casey Cochran is looking for a repeat performance of last year's state-best 2,968 passing yards in 2010.
It’s difficult to find any detractors of the decision, aside from those who would have welcomed further expansion to include as many as 48 teams. Some, such as St. Joseph coach Joe Della Vecchia, believe the system will still keep some deserving schools out only because they’re playing tougher schedules.

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